May 13, 2006
By Jeff Honza
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Junior right-hander Ben Norton allowed just three hits and recorded seven strikeouts in a sparkling seven innings to lead the University of Evansville (31-19, 12-8) to sole possession of second-place in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 7-3 win over Southern Illinois (32-20, 11-9) earlier today.
UE, who has led the entire series against SIU thus far, dropped the Salukis to fourth. SIU, Creighton and Bradley are all tied with 11-9 marks, while Missouri State (11-8) currently takes over third.
"I'm disappointed. For the second day in a row, we got out-played and beat by the better team," said Saluki head coach Dan Callahan.
The red-hot Aces, clearly the best team SIU has faced in the Valley this season, has now won five games in a row and 11 of their last 13. UE will enter Sunday looking to become the first league opponent to sweep the Dawgs this year.
UE again got on the board early and never relinquished its lead.
Kern Watts was hit by a pitch with one out in the first against Saluki left-hander Tyler Norrick. Watts, after stealing second, came around to score on a two-out single to right by Kirk Bacsu.
Norrick then gave up a double and two-run homer to UE's eight and nine-hole hitters, Jeff Zelenovich and Ryan Barrett with one away in the second. Barrett, who entered the day hitting just .174, sent his second homer of the season over the left field wall to give the Aces a 3-0 cushion.
The Dawgs started chipping away at UE's lead during their at-bat in the second, where Dean Cademartori walked and touched home with the help of an error.
Scott Elmendorf then led off the third with a double to right center, went to third when Grant Gerrard flied out to right. Erik Alvarez followed with a grounder to short and Elmendorf scored, cutting the lead to 3-2.
But, Zelenovich's leadoff single, one of three hits in the seventh, marked the end for Norrick.
Zelenovich advanced to second on a hit by Jim Viscomi and scored on Kasey Wahl's two-out single to push UE's lead to 4-2.
SIU, however, answered in its at-bat in the seventh to pull to within a run of the Aces again.
Nathan Emrick led off with a double out of the nine-hole and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Kevin Koski. Elmendorf's grounder to third plated Emrick for the third Saluki run that came home on a ball that didn't leave the infield.
SIU's last chance to catch the Aces came in the eighth against reliever Matt Brinkmann.
Alvarez drew a leadoff walk and moved to third with the help of Matt Brewer's sacrifice bunt and Cademartori's fly ball to right. With two away, Maugeri stepped in and ripped a line drive up the middle, but Brinkmann made an outstanding catch.
"That was a huge play and it was demoralizing," said Callahan. "We couldn't do anything after that."
UE went on to polish off the 7-3 win with three more runs in the ninth, where four Saluki pitchers took the mound.
With the win, Norton improved to 7-3 on the year.
Norrick fell to 4-4 after scattering eight hits and allowing four runs in 6.2 innings. His eight strikeouts tied a season-high.
Offensively, the Dawgs were out-hit 12-4. Elmendorf (2), Koski and Emrick combined for the quiet four hits. The heart of SIU's order, consisting of three, four and five hitters Gerrard, Alvarez and Brewer were hitless on the day.
Five Aces, including Viscomi, Bacsu, Pat Tumilty, Kyle Smith and Zelenovich had two hits.
The Salukis and Aces wrap up their series tomorrow at 1 p.m., CST. Matt Brewer will get the ball for SIU.